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JANUSIAN THINKING AS A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESS

Albert Rothenberg, M.D.

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e-Book 2016 International Psychotherapy Institute


From The Emerging Goddess by Albert Rothenberg, M.D.
Copy right 1979 by Albert Rothenberg, M.D.

All Rights Reserved


Created in the United States of America

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Table of Contents
JANUSIAN THINKING AS A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESS
Jung and Opposites
Dialectical Thinking
Dualistic Thinking
Conflict
Ambivalence

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JANUSIAN THINKING AS A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESS


Throughout this book, I have emphasized the psychological status of janusian thinking as a
conscious, intentional process and as a special type of secondary process cognition. This emphasis has
been necessary because, in Freud's description of the more primitive form of thought, primary process
thinking, equivalence of opposites was a definite feature.1 Freud's own recognition of this feature of
primary process thinking, this creative leap on his part, was a product, I would now suggest, of janusian
thinking.2 While there is no reason to doubt the validity of Freud's specific formulation,3 psychoanalytic
theorists and practitioners have unthinkingly tended to relegate all psychological references to
opposition to the primary process realm. Freud himself made this error in his small but enthusiastic
work, "The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words,"4 written ten years after his monumental work on
dreams. Finding what he thought were numerous instances of words having bimodally antithetical
meaningsfor example, "cleave," meaning both to separate and to join, "altus," meaning both high and
lowin primitive or historically older languages, he believed he had discovered additional evidence for
equivalence of opposites in primitive or primary process thought. Not only were his conclusions incorrect
from the point of view of linguistics and etymology (i.e., words such as "cleave" and "altus" were not
initially bimodal in meaning, such words had homographic homophonesidentical in both spelling and
soundwith different etymological roots), but he was also unaware of the rather adaptive and
sophisticated nature of the linguistic categories used by so-called primitive peoples. The latter has since
been impressively demonstrated by modern anthropologists such as Levi-Strauss.5
Freud's errors can certainly be excused on the basis of incautious zeal in a great first explorer, and
buttressed by our understanding of the complexities and abstractions involved in the conceptualization
and manipulation of opposition, it should now be easier to see how conceptualization of simultaneous
opposites belongs in the realm of high level secondary process thinking. But more clarification is still
needed. Other types of psychological phenomena, including modes of cognition, affects, psychological
structures, and dynamisms, bear some resemblance to janusian thinking and, in order to establish the
psychological dimensions of the thought process distinctly, it is necessary to consider several of them. In
this chapter, I shall discuss the following: Jungian psychology, dialectical thinking, dualistic thinking,
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conflict, and ambivalence. In order to avoid extensive digression, my discussion will be, in some cases,
cursory and brief. I shall, however, show some outstanding points of dissimilarity and similarity or
contact with the janusian process.

Jung and Opposites


So prominent is opposition in the psychological theory propounded by Jung that his work should
properly be cited, along with that of the philosophers in the last chapter, as a major instance of Western
intellectual thought emphasizing opposites.6 Though initially a follower of Freud, Jung eventually
developed a related but alternate psychological theory that has wide influence today. As an attempt at
scientific psychology, Jung's theory properly belongs in the realm of Western intellectual thought, but it
also shows the strong influence of Eastern philosophy and mysticism. And, to a certain extent, it is from
Eastern thought that Jung derived his emphasis on opposites.
A basic tenet of Jungian psychology is the psychic struggle to achieve reconciliation of opposites.
Many aspects of human psychological structure are, according to Jung, in opposition to each other and
reconciling opposites is a major motivating force for behavior. In opposition are the attitudes he called
introversion and extroversion, functions he distinguished as thinking and feeling, intuition and
sensation, the principles of Logos and Eros, archetypes of anima and animus, and inner and outer
worlds. While each of the two attitudes of introversion and extroversion as well as the four psychological
functions often characterize or define particular "psychological types" such as the introvert, the extrovert,
or the feeling type, a cardinal point in Jungian psychology is that no person is ever completely of one
defined type. The introvert has an extroverted side, for instance, and vice versa, and between these sides
there is an interplay and a struggle for reconciliation.
Emphasis on opposites in Jungian theory is most fully realized in the formulations about the anima
and animus archetypes. Anima is the male soul image and animus the female one. Not only are these
images or archetypes considered unequivocally opposite to each other, but Jung intentionally inverted
the usual Latin endings for male ("us") and female ("a") in applying these terms in order to make clear
that the anima was the female aspect of the male psyche and the animus the male aspect of the female
psyche. The female soul image represents unconscious forces, such as tendencies toward close

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interpersonal relationships (unconscious Eros), that were often opposed to and in conflict with conscious
forces (conscious Logos) in the male. Conversely, the male soul image represented unconscious forces
that were often in opposition to conscious female strivings.
The notion of an interplay between the anima and animus archetypes was the basis for a good deal
of Jung's theorizing about the relationship between the individual and the culture. He became quite
interested in the Taoist symbol of the t'ai-chi tu, the symbol discussed earlier (fig. 5) which represents the
mystical relationship of male and female forces in the universe and is the central Taoist symbol of the
nature of all things. This symbol pictorially represents both the opposition and the close affinitywith
an almost fluid interaction between the male and female principles or forces. For Jung, also, there was
often a close affinity between these and other opposites. Another symbol depicting a relationship
between opposites and dating hack in origin as far as paleolithic times, is the mandala or magic circle.
Mandalas generally represent the transformation of opposites into a third term or uniting symbol, the
phenomenon called coincidentia oppositorum. Jung often used the mandala as a specific representation
for his construct of the Self, and it commanded his interest so much and in so many different ways that he
and others have sometimes considered it a symbol for his entire psychology.
Janusian thinking and the pervasive opposition in psychic nature emphasized by Jung are not the
same. Janusian thinking is a distinct cognitive function operating particularly in the creative process. It is
not involved in other types of processes, nor does it depend on, and necessarily arise from, human
psychic structure as composed of opposites. Surely there is some compatibility between the construct of
janusian thinking and the Jungian theoretical formulations. If, for example, Jung were correct that
psychic life is perfused with various types of opposites, janusian thinking would have specially
extensive penetration and power, particularly when its effects are overtly manifest in a completed work
of art. Simultaneous oppositions directly presented in artistic works would embody many of the salient
elements of psychic life, and give an appearance, though not necessarily a realization, of the
reconciliation of opposites.7
Janusian thinking does not, however, arise from a general force motivating everyone toward
reconciliation of opposites. Janusian thinking is a particular characteristic of the creative process and
therefore is a function of the psychological structure of creative persons. As there is no reason to assume
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that all persons have the capacity to use this type of thought or, at least, there is no evidence that
ordinarily they do use it, the thinking does not arise directly from a general force present in everyone.
Moreover, janusian thinking is not motivated by a need to reconcile opposites, nor do janusian constructs
and formulations represent realized reconciliations of opposites. Janusian thinking posits temporal and
functional coexistence of opposites within a single framework or context and the possibility of
simultaneous validity of antithetical entities or constructs, but as a form of cognition it does not reconcile
these antitheses or oppositions. Janusian thinking may provide a basis for reconciliation surely, a step
toward reconciliation more exactly, but actual reconciliation is carried out by other thought processes
such as induction and logic. These statements will gain strength and clarity when the precise meaning of
reconciliation is considered in connection with the dialectic presently.
Jung's interest in the t'ai-chi tu and the mandala, and his recognition of similarities, confluences,
and interrelationships among oppositions great and small are related to factors in the janusian process.
As a creative theorist, many of his concepts pertaining to opposition, and to other factors also, may have
arisen from his own janusian thoughts and constructs. However, although psychic life, even cosmic
forces, might conceivably operate as Jung suggests through the confluence and antagonism of opposites,
that alone would not account for janusian thinking as a creative form of cognition, though it might
account for some of its power.

Dialectical Thinking
The greatest source of confusion about janusian thinking concerns its relationship to dialectics.
Many of the finest philosophers, theorists, scientists, and other outstanding thinkers characteristically
have applied a dialectic approach to some of the most difficult conceptual problems, and the value of
such an approach has been demonstrated over and over throughout the history of thought. Moreover, the
dialectic approach, as a style of writing or of presenting arguments, is a notably effective one: criticisms
and counter arguments are considered before they are raised by a reader or by an opponent, polarities
are appraised, and this mode of presentation is often emotionally stimulating and dramatic.
Though the term "dialectic" has been used in different senses and in different ways by different
philosophers, it is, in its lexical sense, merely the word for logical discourse or argument. I am here,

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however, specifically referring to a type of thinking that has long been recognized and used in
intellectual circles, and was first systematically described and used by Hegel.8 According to Hegel, this
type of thinking proceeds by means of a sequence of steps: an assertion of a thesis or statement of a
position, point of view, problem, or series of facts, followed by the statement and discussion of the
antithesis, the contrary or opposite position or point of view, or the denial of the thesis,- followed by the
synthesis, the combination of the partial truths of the thesis and antithesis into a higher stage of truths.
Once arrived at, of course, the synthesis can serveaccording to Hegel, it always servesas a thesis for
further progressions.
Now, janusian thinking differs from this type of progression in two major ways: (1) it does not
involve a synthesis; (2) it does involve simultaneity of opposites or antitheses rather than sequence. The
Hegelian formulation of synthesis is quite specific and clear: elements of the thesis and antithesis are
combined to form another, presumably more valid, position. Such a combination brings about a
reconciliation of opposites because, as the word reconciliation implies, opposing positions are brought
into harmony with each other and conflicting aspects are resolved. Characteristically, the synthesis is
achieved in one or more of several different ways as follows: showing that all of the elements in the
conflicting positions are not and never were truly antithetical; demonstrating that many of the conflicting
elements can be logically combined with each other; or, by taking advantage of the contextual relativism
of oppositions discussed in the last chapter, showing how opposites may not be antithetical in another,
presumably higher, context. Synthesis and reconciliation of opposites are strongly related and
interconnected; synthesis produces reconciliation of opposites and such reconciliation is, in turn, an
aspect of the wider synthesizing function.
But janusian thinking is not the same as reconciling or as synthesizing opposites; if it were, it
would hardly be a new discovery. The assertion that a pair or group of antitheses while being in conflict
are yet all valid at the same time does not obliterate or compromise the identity or the integrity of the
component antitheses. No combination or reconciliation is indicated. In many cases, the assertion can and
does lead, by means of logical processes, to the formulation of a synthesis or reconciliation, but the
janusian construct is not the same as that synthesis or reconciliation. The construct may stimulate and
facilitate synthesis, sometimes in a crucial way, but it is not itself a synthesis. As a facilitating factor,
janusian thinking may enter into a dialectic sequence and procedure, particularly a creative one. But
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synthesis, and especially combination of antithetical elements, is not a necessary outcome of janusian
thinking; the janusian thought may consist of positing a paradox which is intrinsically unresolvable,
unreconciliable, and unsusceptible to synthesis.
It may be further helpful to consider in some detail the difference between the factors of
combination and integration. Combination involves the bringing together of entities, or parts of entities,
to form another entity in which the original entities no longer retain their individual properties. Thus, in
the classically described case, atoms such as hydrogen and oxygen are brought together to form water, a
compound having none of the properties of the original atoms. Integration, on the other hand, involves
the formation of an entity different from its components in which the properties of the original
components are still manifest or operative. A characteristic example of an integration is shown by a poetic
metaphor such as Sylvia Plath's "How long can my hands be a bandage to his hurt?"9 This metaphor is a
total entity conveying an overall meaning and impact while the properties of the individual elements are
neither obliterated, nor compromised, nor submerged. All aspects, whole and part, contribute to the effect
and sense. The idea of the protection and the dependency of another person stimulates numerous
associations and thoughts and the specific elements of hands, bandage, and hurt all arouse specific
associations as well. "Hurt" suggests psychological suffering as well as physical injury; "hands" are
gripping, or supplicating as well as protective, "bandage" is a covering, not a cure. Furthermore, there is
interaction between, and mutual modification of elements: the hands take on some of the soft, swathing
and encircling qualities of the bandage, and the bandage takes on the strength and adherence of the
hands. Rather than combination of a hand and a bandage, we experience an active integration of these
elements with the overall sense. Both overall meaning and individual components operate to produce
the integrated entity, here, the metaphor. Janusian thinking is more intrinsically related to such an
integration than it is to combination and synthesis. In janusian constructs, opposites retain their
antithetical qualities while being simultaneously valid or operative; they thereby readily form the basis
for an integrated product.10
I shall not draw hard and fast distinctions between the synthesis aspect of the dialectic and
janusian thinking because products of the latter can and do lead to syntheses, especially in science, and
dialectic syntheses can be elaborated into integrations. Distinct from the factors involved in janusian
thinking, however, are the combination or reconciliation effect and the highly generic principles of the
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dialectic. When janusian constructs enter into the dialectic process, they may, once they are formulated
and proposed, be subjected to and elaborated by a dialectic analysis, but the analysis does not generate
them.
An even more critical distinction between the dialectic and the janusian process involves the
temporal factors of sequence and simultaneity. In the former, opposites or antitheses are treated
sequentially and in the latter, simultaneously. Because the dialectic is a logical discursive process, it
requires the sequential weighing and analysis of antithetical or conflicting propositions, points of view,
or facts. Only when each of the opposing positions are carefully and separately considered is it possible
to propose a synthesis or, viewed more impressionistically, only then does a meaningful synthesis
become immanent or apparent. But janusian thinking is, if you will, significantly more impatient;
opposites and antitheses are proposed as being simultaneously valid. While the initiator of the janusian
thought is also aware of the logical possibilities of the proposition, they are neither fully in his mind nor
has he worked them out beforehand. At different points, janusian thinking involves the positing of a
problem and the finding of a solution. Again, Sartre may very well have realized, in a single moment, that
both Being and Nothingness were essential and were irreducible in a meaningful ontology and,
following that, turned to a long and brilliant dialectical process to work out his previously arrived at
solution. So, too, a scientist may interpret his data in terms of simultaneous opposition, say, proposing
that entities behave simultaneously as particles and waves. For him this is an early formulation of a
problem. After a laborious series of proceduresinvolving observations and experiments as well as
dialectic and other types of analysishe discovers how particles and waves operate simultaneously.
This is not tautological; the solution and the problem are both janusian formulations but a good deal of
exegesis lies between.
In a given dialectical account, it is always difficult to know whether the thinker developed either or
both his problems and solutions in the manner as presented to "the world," so to speak. Frequently it is
difficult for the thinker himself to remember the exact steps and sequences and he cannot report about
this. Simultaneous antitheses and oppositions especially are difficult to keep in mind and simultaneity
soon gives way to sequences and to the demands of logic, factors that begin the dialectic process. Positing
for instance that sex and death are the same, or that they coexist simultaneously in the same process,
leads rather quickly to a separate consideration of the attributes of various aspects of sexuality followed
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by a separate consideration of the attributes of death.11 Sexual intercourse involves spasmodic bodily
movements, a sense of release, a loss of individuality or a self-annihilation, and a profound relaxation.
Death involves release, an annihilation of self, and dying can involve spasmodic movements and total
relaxation. With further contemplation, aspects of one are compared to aspects of the other in a
continuing sequence. The requirements of writing something out and putting it on a page inevitably
produce a sequence, for that matter. Initially simultaneous conceptions are made sequential,
straightened out, or otherwise submerged. Only careful retracing of steps, requiring careful and
sometimes dogged questioning or analysis, will reveal the original structure of the thought.
Certain types of sequences occur in the janusian process, but sequential analysis of the nature of the
oppositions is not one of them; that is part of the dialectic. One type is a sequence starting with general
interest in and attraction to antitheses and oppositions, then recognition and specification of particular
opposites, then formulation of simultaneous opposites. Another type is careful preparation for and
development of a task, extensive assessment and data gathering, and formulation of hypotheses, all
carried out without any attention to opposition until, at the final moment in the sequence, opposites are
specified and conceptualized simultaneously.
Janusian constructs are way stations toward integration of opposites and antitheses. Although
conceptualization of simultaneous antitheses or opposites is not the same as integration of these entities,
it sets the stage or provides the basis for a subsequent integration. Usually, homospatial thinking
functions to produce such integrations, but dialectic thinking or analysis can serve in some fashion also.
Although characteristically oriented toward synthesis and combination, dialectic thinking can facilitate
integration of opposites and antitheses, especially in science and philosophy. Dialectic analyses and
syntheses of the elements in a janusian construct could function as steps toward integration and they
could function to integrate janusian formulations into larger theories or analyses. Examples of the latter
might be Freud's or Sartre's use of dialectic thinking to integrate Conscious/Unconscious or
sex/aggression and Being and Nothingness, respectively, into comprehensive systems. As some persons
who employ janusian thinking also tend otherwise to think in dialectical terms, there surely are some
close relationships between the two forms of thought despite the separation and distinctiveness of their
functions with respect to creativity. While janusian thinking is intrinsic to the creative process, effective
dialectical thinking, like any other form of effective thinking, sometimes plays a role. Cardinally shared
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by both janusian and dialectical thinking is a concern with opposition and antithesis, and future
exploration may reveal other interesting and important connections.

Dualistic Thinking
Because janusian thinking is a step toward integration of antitheses and opposites, there is really
little reason to confuse it with dualistic thinking, the tendency to formulate concepts or systems in terms
of two exhaustive categories. However, confusion could arise because of common elements between
janusian and dialectical thinking. Dialecticians are particularly prone to formulating dualisms and, in
assessing a particular dialectic system of thought, it is often hard to judge whether fondness for duality or
the saliency of the dialectic method has been primary. To this day, there is still much controversy about
the presence of dualistic thinking in the works of such influential giants as Plato, Descartes, Kant, Hegel,
Leibniz, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Are they, for instance, limited by such dualisms as real and ideal,
matter and mind, mind and body, reason and faith, material and spiritual, and so forth? Are two
alternatives or factors emphasized and considered on the basis of economy, symmetry, or merely
simplistic and limited conceptualizing? And, from a more profound point of view, philosophers and
theologians often wonder about a metaphysical basis for dualistic versus trinitarian religions and
systems of thought.12
Although the dialectic method is often associated with dualistic formulations, there is no necessary
reason that it must be so. Moreover, janusian thinking, which occurs in conjunction with many other
types of thinking beside the dialectic one, need hardly share any guilt by association. Nevertheless, both
janusian thinking and dialectics are based in part on opposition, and opposition, it will be remembered,
is often conceived in binary or dichotomous terms. Binary oppositions such as sex and aggression or
material and spiritual are surely dualisms. How does dualism actually fit in? In no intrinsic or direct
fashion. In the first place, dualisms only logically enter the picture when certain types of opposites are
formulated; scalar or polar opposites (based on continuities) do not lend themselves to dualistic
descriptions because no two exhaustive categories are formed. It would be totally inappropriate, for
instance, to propose that all color is based on a dualism of black and white because it is clearly necessary
to take account of the scale of various grades of gray. Indeed, attempting to make a dualism out of black
and white has figuratively come to represent poor thinking and perception, "seeing things in black and
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white" is the exemplar of a pejorative reference to dualism.


Second, and especially pertinent to janusian thinking, there is no intrinsic reason for any opposites,
whether dichotomous (cut) or scalar, to be considered as dualistic pairs. When real and ideal are
considered as opposites, many other oppositions are possible as well: real and unreal, real and
supernatural, real and fantastic; also, there is ideal and flawed, ideal and low, ideal and ordinary, and so
on. For sex and aggression, there are virtually unlimited possibilities: aggression and docility, aggression
and peace, aggression and conciliation, sex and chastity, sex and death, sex and abstinence, sex and
religion, and many, many others depending on which of the manifold aspects of these concepts are
considered. Multiple oppositions of this sort are characteristically involved in janusian thinking and, for
that matter, they are often involved in other advanced types of thinking about opposites, in science and
in dialectic thinking as well. But the sine qua non of janusian thinking is multiplicity and multiple
opposition involving the multiple and varied nuances of words, concepts, and sensory phenomena.
Therefore, no intrinsic dualism could be at all involved in the janusian process. To say that multiple
opposition could be ultimately reduced to a dualismthat is, multiples of two are binary or dualistic in
basic structure, multiples of three are treble in structureis begging the question because multiple
oppositions are rich and complex and not systematically related to each other.

Conflict
While dualism, dialectic thinking, and the Jungian structure of the psyche have no intrinsic or
direct relationship to janusian thinking, conflict is connected to this process in a major way. Conflict
instigates and generates the process of janusian thinking, and conflict is manifest, or at least influential,
in the products and results. Both scientific and artistic creations retain an element of conflict
psychological, aesthetic, and/or intellectualin their substance and structure. The impulse to create
arises from psychological conflict, conflict that is necessary for the antithetical structure of janusian
thinking. One of the reasons janusian thinking plays such a large role in creations is that it helps produce
the sense that we treasure so highly in art of both tension and conflict together with balance and
harmony. In science, it produces both intellectual discovery and resolution together with a sense of
discrepancy, an intellectual tension and conflict that propels the creative scientist to search further.
Although conflict is necessary for janusian thinking, it is not sufficient to produce the process. The
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janusian process is not merely a direct or an indirect manifestation of psychological conflict.


Psychological conflict is universal and ubiquitous in human experience. To say that psychological
conflict is necessary for janusian thinking and for both the artistic and scientific creative processes is not
to connect psychopathology with creativity. Psychological conflict is not intrinsically pathological or
inevitably connected to illness. Indeed, such conflict is so ubiquitous and, in some ways, such an
appropriate response to the complexity and flux of human experience that it is objectively best described
only as a state of being. This state of being is not much different for the creative person than it is for the
rest of us: it is experienced both consciously and unconsciously as a sense of particular inner forces in
opposition with each other, an opposition that sometimes abates, or is shunted away, or is resolved, or is
replaced, or continues throughout the course of life. What may be different about the creative person is
his capacity to embody this inner psychological conflict in janusian constructs and formulations. For, in
structure, such constructs and formulations are either or both the expression of conflict or the wished-for
resolution of conflict. Formulating two or more specific opposites or antitheses coexisting simultaneously
embodies and expresses conflict. As the coexistence and cooperation obviates total and intolerable
contradiction or; at the very least, mutual annihilation, a sense of resolution is also expressed. In short,
the janusian thought is emotionally coordinate with the idea of having one's cake and eating it, too.
If janusian thinking were merely an expression of the emotional wish to have one's cake and eat it
too, if it were only the hoped-for magical resolution of conflict, it would be a direct manifestation of
primary process thinking. Such, however, is not the case. Powered and motivated by emotional conflict
and unconscious wishes, janusian thinking is a form of conscious abstract formulating and
conceptualizing that produces creations. It is, again, a form of secondary, not primary, process cognition.
Although the elements of an unconscious conflict may appear in the context of a janusian construct, the
defense mechanism of negation is operating rather than either primary process thinking or an eruption
of unconscious conflict into consciousness. For the creative person, negation and janusian thinking are
special ways of dealing with unconscious conflict. Conscious conflicts also are at times involved. Seldom,
however, does the janusian process function to resolve conscious or unconscious conflicts directly, but
such conflicts may be resolved as a result of their externalization in the creative process and the
concomitant operation of other types of cognitive and emotional factors, creative and otherwise.

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In producing creations, janusian thinking brings conflictual elementsintellectual, aesthetic, and


emotionaltogether and into juxtaposition with one another. This in itself helps reduce certain types of
conflict maintained by lack of comprehension and understanding; in other cases, juxtaposed elements
are rendered more susceptible to comparison and integration as well as resolution. Despite its potential
for integration and harmony, however, the janusian construct and concatenation of opposites and
antitheses is itself always fraught with a sense of discord and tension. The thoughts and ideas are
subjectively uncomfortable to formulate and they produce an intense quality of what Festinger called
cognitive dissonance,13 or a feeling of cognitive conflict.

Ambivalence
The relationship between ambivalence and janusian thinking is highly complex. Consideration of
this relationship leads to the labyrinthian realm of topics such as creativity and schizophrenia, and
creativity and general psychopathology. I shall not attempt here to pursue the latter issue to the extent it
deserves, but instead I shall touch on some highlights pending a fuller discussion in the future.
The term "ambivalence" was first applied to psychological phenomena by Eugen Bleuler in 1919.
Derived from chemical terminology, the root, valence, denotes the "value" or combining power of an
atom. By "ambivalence," Bleuler intended to designate the tendency of his schizophrenic patients to
"endow the most diverse psychisms with both a positive and negative indicator,"14 and he distinguished
three types: affective ambivalence, ambivalence of will, and intellectual ambivalence. Although he
provided rich and detailed descriptions of apparent instances of the three types in schizophrenia, Freud
and other clinicians restricted the use of the term to one type, affective ambivalence, and proving more
useful and precise, such restricted use has persisted in contemporary psychiatric practice.
Affective ambivalence consists of the tendency of persons suffering from schizophreniaand, as we
now know, a wide range of other types of illness are also included, notably the obsessive compulsive
neurosisto possess strong contradictory feelings, such as love and hate, toward a single person or
object. With respect to janusian thinking, an immediate and sharp distinction obtains. Janusian thinking
involves simultaneous and conscious cognitions, and it is the nature of affects that they can neither be
experienced definitively and precisely nor simultaneously on a conscious level. Affective ambivalence is

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always inferred from a person's behavior by an observer; the person himself does not consciously
experience defined contradictory affects simultaneously, he feels only a general sense of uncertainty and
indecisiveness. For an observer, the uncertainty is manifest in the person's actions, and affective
ambivalence is assumed to be the cause. Eventually, concrete feelings such as love and hate may come
alternately into the ambivalent person's awareness, and he then may come to understand the roots of
such uncertainty. It is at that point described in conceptual terms, such as, "I have mixed feelings," or "I
think I both love and hate my mother." In Bleuler's original description of affective ambivalence, he cites
the example of a patient referring to her lover in the following way: "You devil, you angel, you devil, you
angel."15 Sequential feelings oscillating between opposite poles are represented. If the patient were able
to say, "I feel you are both a devil and an angel," or even, "I both love and hate you," she would be making
abstract inferences from her own concrete feelings and behavior.
This is not a hair-splitting distinction: it is based on an important difference between affects and
cognitions and helps to specify a probable connection between affective ambivalence and janusian
thought. Affective ambivalence, like conflict, is very likely one of the motivating forces leading to janusian
thoughts. This should not be surprising, because ambivalence and conflict are highly interrelated with
one another: ambivalence leads to conflict and conflict produces various types of ambivalences. Thus,
ambivalent feelings may instigate the janusian process, but particular janusian constructs do not
themselves consist of feelings or concrete experiences, they consist of abstract conceptualizations.
Experience with creative people does indicate that they are in fact often highly ambivalent in many areas
of their lives.16 But, although ambivalent feelings may instigate the janusian process, such feelings,
unlike the more general factor of conflict, are not continually involved.
But what of the other types of ambivalence described by Bleuler, ambivalence of will and
intellectual ambivalence? As an example of ambivalence of will, Bleuler describes a patient who clamors
for release from the institution and then violently and abusively resists when informed that he is about to
be discharged. Here, again, there is a sequential oscillation informing an observer that contradictory
tendencies exist. To draw a meaningful distinction between this type of ambivalence and the previous
affective type is actually quite difficult. Will, in the sense described, is quite close to affect; we could easily
say, for example, that the patient feels ambivalent about going home. Bleuler himself realized this
similarity between the types. Because the types are similar, ambivalence both of will and of affect are
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essentially distinct from janusian thinking in a similar way. Bleuler's ambivalence of will should more
appropriately be considered to be a form of conflict which, in modern terms, would be designated as a
conflict of motives. In that case, it would have the same relationship to janusian thinking as other forms of
conflict.
Seldom is the term ambivalence applied nowadays to the type of behavior exemplifying Bleuler's
third type: intellectual ambivalence. Here, the patient says, "I am a human being like yourself even
though I am not a human being."17 But regardless of what it is called, such behavior is still found in
schizophrenic patients and it requires careful analysis because in form it is close to the conceptualization
of simultaneous antithesis of janusian thinking.
The patient's statement, "I am a human being like yourself even though I am not a human being,"
taken by itself appears to have all the features of a janusian formulation. As an assertion of simultaneous
antithesis, it seems pregnant with meaning and somewhat poetic. Taken figuratively, it suggests many
levels of meaning: the patient knows that he is human, but he doesn't feel human; he is at war within
himself, a human aspect clashing with what he considers to be a nonhuman aspect; you, the other
person, do not treat him as a human being; something about him is lacking; you and the patient both
belong to some mystical or superordinate category where humanness is beside the point. As a
psychotherapist working with this patient, all of these figurative meanings of his statement should be
taken as potentially relevant. Presenting one or more in the form of an interpretation of what the patient
is really "saying" can lead to an engagement, an inroad into the patient's emotional life that produces
further clarification and exploration. But is it correct to say that the patient had all these meanings
consciously in mind when he made the statement? In answering this, I do not mean to presume that I
know exactly what goes on, at any given moment, in a schizophrenic patient's mind. Nevertheless, I
believe I can answer it on the basis of what is currently known about schizophrenia from various types of
clinical observations. No, it is highly unlikely that the patient has these meanings consciously in mind
when he makes the statement because that would require a conscious intention for the remark to be
taken figuratively. In order for the patient to intend figurative meaning, it is necessary that he be aware of
the contradictory elements in the statement.18 He must know (and believe) that he is expressing a literal
impossibility because such impossibility alone denotes figurative intent (for the person speaking as well
as the person spoken to). But, there is little reason to believe that the schizophrenic person making such a
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remark is aware of the impossibility and contradiction. In fact, quite the reverse applies: the patient
believes in the literal truth of the statement that he is both a human being and not a human being at the
same time. This type of equivalence of opposites is a criterion attribute of primary process thinking; such
literal equivalence characterizes schizophrenic thought. The patient in this instance has not formulated
a janusian thought at all; he cannot use the thought for creative production because it is conceptually
meaningless and idiosyncratic, rather than profound. Referring to my discussion of opposition in the
previous chapter, it appears that the patient thinks only of the similarities rather than the contradictions
in opposites.
Some factors operating with this patient can perhaps be made clearer in terms of Lidz's recent and
salient formulations about the nature of schizophrenic thinking. Tracing the origin of cognitive deficit in
schizophrenia to childhood egocentricity (as the term is used by Piaget), Lidz describes a resulting
difficulty in conceptual category formation as the hallmark of the illness. "Categories," he says, "are
formed by selecting common attributes of things or events to bestow some degree of equivalence to
experiences that can never be identical."19 Necessary to such category formation is the capacity to discern
and define boundaries between elements of experience and to distinguish the essential from the
nonessential. Category formation, therefore, is the basis for abstract thinking. Typically, Lidz points out,
the schizophrenic has difficulty forming such categories, both in language and in thought, and becomes
preoccupied with what Lidz terms, "the intercategorical realm."20 This realm consists of fantasies about
fusion of the self and the mother, intersexuality, and other matters lying between the ordinary
boundaries of experience and thought.
Consistent with this view; a difficulty in forming categories involves a fluidity and a lack of
distinction among opposites and contradictions. Essential to forming categories is the capacity to separate
both elements that belong together and those that do not belong. Therefore, recognition of contradiction is
a crucial factor. Persons suffering from schizophrenia, however, have enormous difficulty in just this
area, they cannot eliminate contradictory elements and they include inessentials (overinclusion)21 in the
categories they form. Opposites and antitheses are therefore often considered equivalent or identical
because of superficial resemblances. Such superficial resemblances usually have some egocentric
relevance, and when we explore the basis for equating a particular pair or group of opposites, we often
learn a good deal about the patient's preoccupations and concerns.
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The basis, then, of statements by schizophrenic persons demonstrating what Bleuler called
intellectual ambivalence is this significant difficulty in recognizing contradictions and in forming
appropriate categories, along with egocentric preoccupations and concerns. This is a far cry from
janusian thinking, where the creative person is acutely and sharply aware of the contradictory elements
between a particular pair or among a series of opposites or antitheses and he nevertheless posits that
they are equivalently valid or simultaneously operative for the purpose of attaining aesthetic effects and
higher truths.
With respect to affective ambivalence and ambivalence of will, lack of contradiction also plays a role.
When the schizophrenic patient utters a series of remarks suggesting affective ambivalence or when he
first asks to leave the hospital and then resists discharge the next day, he is also not aware of the
contradictory nature of his behavior. This is not to say that the patient lacks an experience of conflict;
quite the contrary. A constant and recurrent feeling of conflict without awareness of the nature of the
conflict is particularly marked in schizophrenia. But the patient does seem unable to understand and to
formulate conceptually at that moment that he has said something contradictory or behaved in a
contradictory fashion. When he becomes able to say, "I have mixed feelings" about someone or something,
this usually means that he has come to acknowledge and/or recognize contradiction. As therapists, we
acknowledge this achievement by saying that the patient has attained insight.
Though I have devoted the major part of this discussion to a consideration of ambivalence in the
schizophrenic condition, severe and persistent ambivalent feelings also occur in a large number of
clinical conditions. Furthermore, ambivalent feelings are involved, though less severely and persistently,
in a wide variety of interpersonal relationships; they occur in the healthy as well as the sick. In none of
these cases are such feelings necessarily connected with janusian thinking. As feelings, they are neither
experienced simultaneously nor do they necessarily become translated into the special conceptual
configurations, nor become applied to the special contexts, of the creative process. When Bleuler's type of
intellectual ambivalence becomes manifest in schizophrenia or in other conditions such as the obsessive
compulsive neurosis, it is a product of primary process rather than janusian thinking. When a person
with an obsessive compulsive neurosis believes that he can both decide and not decide, or can leave his
wife and not leave her, we have little trouble recognizing the inability to acknowledge contradiction and
the emergence of primary process thought. Sometimes, such ambivalent feelings could provide a basis for
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a janusian formulation, even constructed by the obsessive compulsive or schizophrenic, but in such cases
a specific recognition of logical contradictionthe intervention of abstract thinking and insighthas
invariably occurred.
In sum, janusian thinking is a cognitive process involving high degrees of abstraction. Not based on
or derived from an oppositionally structured psyche or a type of dialectic discourse or method, it is a
special type of secondary process thinking. Arising always from psychological and intellectual conflict,
janusian thinking embodies and presents conflicts and provides a means to their resolution. Sometimes
the janusian process is associated with ambivalence, but it always involves strong appreciation of the
contradictory nature of opposites and antitheses. As a process, janusian thinking involves specification of
opposites or antitheses, presentation or postulation of opposites or antitheses existing or operating
simultaneously, application in a creative context with elaboration, and frequently some type of later
transformation. Experientially, the process is often truncated and a janusian formulation arises as a leap
of thought that overcomes apparent contradictions and both initiates and facilitates the construction and
development of creations.

Notes
1 Freud, "The Interpretation of Dreams."
2 W. Sledge and I have identified numerous instances of simultaneous antithesis in Freud's formulations. Freud's brilliant analysis of the
nature of the uncanny as comprised of two antithetical aspects, heimlich or familiar and "unheimlich or unfamiliar, is an
especially noteworthy instance of a janusian conception; see S. Freud, "The 'Uncanny'" (1919) (London, 1955), 17:217-52.
3 As I discuss in the final chapter here, the operation of janusian thinking in producing artistic creations and their aesthetic appeal supports
and lends increased weight to Freud's formulation about primary process.
4 S. Freud, "The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words" (1910) (London, 1957), 11:15362. Freud based this analysis on the work of a
German philologist, Karl Abel.
5 C. Levi-Strauss, "The savage mind is logical in the same sense and in the same fashion as ours, though as our own is only when it is applied
to knowledge of a universe in which it recognizes physical and semantic properties simultaneously" (The Savage Mind
[Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966], p. 268).
6 See The Collected Works of C. G. Jung (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series, 1966), esp. The Psychology of the
Unconscious, vol. 7; Psychological Types, vol. 6; The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, vol. 8.
7 Some others who have strongly emphasized the importance of reconciliation of opposites, in art and/or in life are Coleridge (probably the
first), Eli Siegel, and Cyril Connolly. For Coleridge's discussion of poetry as a reconciliation of opposites, see esp. chap. 14 in
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Biographia Literaria. The English critic Connolly said the following: "To attain . . . truth we must be able to resolve all our
dualities [opposites]" (The Unquiet Grave [London: Hamish Hamilton, 1945], p. 85). Siegel, who founded a movement called
"Aesthetic Realism" states as a manifesto: "The resolution of conflict in self is like the making one of opposites in art," and "All
beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves"; see, e.g., E.
Siegel, The Aesthetic Method in Self Conflict (New York: Definition Press, 1965), Psychiatry, Economics, Aesthetics (New York:
Definition Press, 1946).
8 See G. W. F. Hegel, "The Science of Logic," in The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, trans. W. Wallace (London: Oxford University
Press, 1965). For a good discussion of Hegel's dialectic, see J. N. Findlay, Hegel: A Re-Examination (New York: Collier Books,
1962).
9 S. Plath, "Three Women," Winter Trees (London: Faber & Faber, 1971), p. 50.
10 The consideration here should also clarify the relationship of janusian thinking and syncretism. Syncretism, the attempted reconciliation
or union of different or conflicting principles, practices, or parties, usually involves logic, compromise, or a process of
accretion such as the gradual incorporation of tenets and rites from different religions into a single religion. While janusian
thinking could play a role in developing a particular syncretic result, syncretic thinking and approaches proceed along many
and varying paths. Also, Arieti's theory of creativity as a "magic" synthesis of primary and secondary process does not take
into consideration the difference between integration, which is more intrinsic to creativity, and synthesis (see Arieti,
Creativity).
11 Connections between sex and death have a long mythopoetic history. McClelland has discussed these connections in the theme of the
harlequin figure which he traces to a time prior to the commedia dell'arte in the eleventh century. Also, he cites earlier
connections in Greek mythology; see D. W. McClelland, "The Harlequin Complex," in The Study of Lives, ed. R. W. White
(New York: Atherton Press, 1963), pp. 94120. Also, Professor Toby Olshin has called my attention to the widespread
tendency among Renaissance poets, particularly John Donne, to equate sexual orgasm and death in both punning and serious
contexts. This long-standing mythic and literary background has not detracted from the impact of new constructions
equating sex and death.
12 Koestler's emphasis is on dualistic factors both in the concept of bisocia- tion and in his recent use of the metaphor of the god, Janus. He
focuses on a two-faced god rather than on opposition [Janus).
13 See L. Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Evanston, 111.: Row, Peterson, 1957). Cognitive dissonance consists of a relation of
discrepancy or lack of fit between two items of knowledge or conceptions held at the same time. Festinger emphasized that
such discrepancy produced discomfort and a motivation toward reduction or resolution. This motivating effect of cognitive
dissonance applies to the stimulating quality of janusian formulations, the motivation and instigation to consider further and
to seek further information when exposed to such formulations. With the simultaneous antitheses and oppositions, there could
hardly be a form of cognition that is manifestly more discrepant or dissonant.
14 E. Bleuler, Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias, trans. J. Zinkin (New York: International Universities Press, 1950), p. 53.
15 Ibid.
16 See earlier psychodynamic formulations about the author of "In Monument Valley"; see also Rothenberg, "The Iceman Changeth," and
"Poetic Process and Psychotherapy."
17 Bleuler, Dementia Praecox, p. 54.
18 In referring to absence of figurative intent, I do not mean to invoke the complicated and controversial issue of whether schizophrenics
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think concretely rather than abstractly, nor do I mean to propose a systematic formulation about figurative thinking in
schizophrenia. It is well known that persons suffering from schizophrenia do think abstractly, sometimes "over- abstractly,"
and that they are also capable of speaking and thinking both figuratively and metaphorically. I have suggested some
formulations about schizophrenic production of metaphors elsewhere (A. Rothenberg, "Poetry in the Classroom," American
Poetry Review 3 [1974] :52-54), and a full discussion of the matter must be postponed for other communications.
19 T. Lidz, The Origin and Treatment of Schizophrenic Disorders (New York: Basic Books, 1973), p. 59.
20 Ibid., pp. 85 ff.
21 "Overinclusion" was first introduced by Norman Cameron,- see his "Schizophrenic Thinking in a Problem-Solving Situation," Journal of
Mental Science 85 (1939) :1012-35.

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